Russian Hackers and FSB Agents Arrested in Moscow for ‘Treason’ on Suspicion of Leaking to US Intelligence

January 26, 2017
Image by Tsargrad TV

LIVE UPDATES: The independent news site Novaya Gazeta reports that an FSB agent and a Kaspirsky Laboratory cybersecurity specialist were arrested for passing information to American intelligence about attempts to hack elections in Arizona and Illinois.

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Russian Hackers and FSB Agents Arrested in Moscow for ‘Treason’ on Suspicion of Leaking to US Intelligence

The following article  by Irek Murtazin titled “Trojan Code: Hackers and Chekists Suspected of State Treason in Passing Secret Data to the Americans,” was published today by the independent news site Novaya Gazeta regarding the arrest of a Kaspersky Laboratory employee and an FSB agent which we reported yesterday.

There are other versions of the story of these arrests and the motivation for them, and other additional analysis which we will summarize in the next post.

Details of the arrest of Sergei Mikhailov, director of the 2nd operations department of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Center for Information Security (TsIB) are coming in. Our sources have confirmed that Mikhailov really was detained during a meeting of the FSB’s board. In fact, the arrest was made with theatrical flourish; they put a black bag over the head of this FSB officer, who is suspected of state treason.

Tsargrad, a news site and TV station created by the “Russian Orthodox oligarch” Konstantin Malofeyev was the first to put out this information. [Malofeyev is known for funding conservative causes such as the League for Internet Safety and the Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine at one time led by Col. Igor Strelkov, a cause he has distanced himself from in the last year–The Interpreter].
Malofeyev is said to be friends with Andrei Ivashko, the head of the Center for Information Protection and Special Communications of the FSB (TsZI). The TsIB and TzZI are to some extent agencies within the FSB that duplicate each other and therefore compete with each other. Therefore  the appearance of the details of Mikhailov’s arrest on a site controlled by Malofeyev does not surpise us. Although the version of the story put forward by Tsargrad seems a bit unexpected, that the arrested FSB officer was related to the hacker’s group Shaltay Boltai [the Russian expression for “Humpty Dumpty” which is better known in the West as “Anonymous International,” separate from the better known “Anonymous”–The Interpreter].
Mikhailov was supposedly providing cover for and managing hackers who gained fame for hacking the personal emails of Dmitry Medvedev, vice premier Arkady Dvorkovich, and officials in the presidential administration, the Defense Ministry and Roskomnadzor [the state agency for supervising the media, which functions as the state censor–The Interpreter].
Tsargrad writes that perhaps the CIA is behind Shaltai-Boltai, and consequently, Mikhailov, too, could have cooperated with US intelligence. At any rate, Mikhailov is charged not with a work-related or corruption crime, but in fact with state treason (Art. 275 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code) which provides for up to 20 years of imprisonment.
I first heard of Sergei Mikhailov in 2012, when he was conducting a journalistic investigation on a criminal case regarding Pavel Vrublyovsky, founder and general director of Chronopay, a payments processing company. Vrublyovsky at that time accused Mikhailov of fabricating a criminal case against him.
Later, during the trial at the Tushino District Court, Sergei Mikhailov, questioned as a witness in the case, confirmed his many years of acquaintance with Vrublyovsky. “Vrublyevsky is a talented person, who was interesting to us for his connections…,” he said.
Tushino District Court sentenced Vrublyovsky to 2.5 years of imprisonment. He served his sentence in a labor colony in Ryazan Region. After he returned to Moscow, the businessman resumed active management of the Chronopay company which once controlled 45% of the bank card payments on the Runet [the Russian-language Internet–The Interpreter], but which had suffered a heavy lost of its positions.
Last year, the name Pavel Vrublyovsky once again surfaced in the news when the US accused the owner of King Servers, a Russian named Vladimir Fomenko, of a cyber attack on the electoral systems in the US states of Arizona and Illinois, which was supposedly conducted from eight servers, six of which belonged to the company King Servers. Fomenko, in turn, rented these servers from a Dutch company controlled in fact by Vrublyovsky.
According to information from our sources, this story did not pass unnoticed at the FSB. The special services [intelligence agency–The Interpreter] began an internal probe of their own security back in September of last year and in December, supposedly came to the conclusion that information about King Servers, Fomenko and Vrublyovsky had been obtained by American intelligence from Sergei Mikhailov, head of the 2nd operations department of the Center for Information Security. Arrests were immediately made…
Pavel Vrublyovsky has had no comment.

Today, according to our information, besides Ruslan Stoyanov, an employee of Kaspersky Laboratory and Sergei Mikhailov of the FSB, two more people were arrested. One is a colleague of Mikhailov’s, an officer at the FSB Center for Information Security.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick